Startup Institute Team

Articles by Startup Institute Team

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How to find the unadvertised jobs you didn’t know existed

Startup Institute Chicago Director Jenn Yee is a career coach to MBA students, entrepreneurs and other professionals looking to navigate the modern job market. She is passionate about helping career transitioners find jobs they love, and ensuring they’re equipped with the clear goals and action plans for success.

On the surface, the job search and hiring process haven’t changed in a century: a job is posted, a candidate like you submits their qualifications, an interview occurs. You get the offer, or you don’t. But today, the majority of jobs are actually found through the “hidden job market” – a vexing place where jobs that are never posted online or on company websites are awarded to the most savvy and persistent job seekers.


Welcome, Diane Hessan: Our new CEO

Today is a special day for Startup Institute, for our alumni, and for all of the communities we impact across the world.

Over the past 2.5 years we’ve discovered a global need for our style of education and approach to talent development. We made it our mission to expand our community, to find, foster, and fuel innovative ecosystems across the world, and to that end, last month we successfully closed our three-million-dollar Series A funding round, led by our wonderful partners at Silicon Valley Bank. And now it’s time we take the company to the next level. It’s time to take that validation, that encouragement, and all of our know-how and resources, and use them to continue growing the Startup Institute, helping people from all walks of life to find jobs that they love, and fueling growth in the innovation communities that we call home.

So, we ask you to please join us in welcoming Startup Institute’s new CEO, Diane Hessan.


Co-founder Shaun Johnson Mentoring at Wisconsin Patriots Boot Camp this Weekend

We’re very happy to announce that we’ll be supporting Techstars Patriot Boot Camp this weekend, September 26-28, in Madison, Wisconsin.

The skills our military bestows during service align perfectly with the ability to succeed in a high-growth company. The ability to focus on the task at hand, rapidly shift priorities under uncertain circumstances, and steadily perform in a high-pressure environment are core attributes developed by all of our military servicemen and women. It so happens that these are the skills desired by young companies looking to innovate and grow.


Learning New Skills? Sometimes You Just Get Stuck.


With the multitude of online learning options, including a whopping 99 venture-backed education startups, you can find a class on almost any topic these days. From fashion design to the inner workings of Einstein to early New England poetry, the skill levels and content density you’re looking for are certainly out there. This too is true for some of today’s most sought-after skills: web development, web design, and technical marketing. The difference being, these 21st century skills are often sought after by working professionals — people who hope to use their freshly minted skills immediately in their current position or the job they’re aspiring to. They need not know how to do something, but have experience actually doing that something. That however, as you might have guessed, is more complicated that an 8 week pre-recorded class. Why? Sometimes you just get stuck. (more…)

Summer 2014 TalentExpo: Is your company hiring?

Startup Institute Chicago Spring cohort

Startup Institute really is an ever growing family of individuals who are looking to challenge themselves and push themselves beyond their limits. Current students, alumni, and staff end up sharing a special bond. And like a family we all support each other (and we also bicker sometimes. It’s a family).

Three cohorts go through the Startup Institute experience a year. I went through the Spring cohort in Chicago. Now that summer has arrived another Startup Institute cohort’s time is coming to an end (or is it just the beginning?), which means it’s time to show off these talented individuals at the Startup Institute TalentExpo.

What is Startup Institute’s TalentExpo?

Every individual who goes through the Startup Institute program wants to find a job within the startup community. At the TalentExpo, students get 60 seconds to pitch themselves to the startup companies present in the room. 60 seconds to impress. That’s not a lot of time. At all. In 60 seconds they have to make enough time to talk about who they are, what special skills they have and what experience (or motivation) they bring to the table. If you’ve never tried to pitch yourself in 60 seconds, I highly encourage it. It’s quite the challenge.

I met some of the most ambitious and talented people at Startup Institute, and have no doubt the upcoming class with be just as impressive. Like Rick Desai wrote in his blog post, those who have gone through the Startup Institute experience are founders of their own careers. We take our careers seriously.

Is your company hiring?

If you work for a startup, you know you can’t just hire anyone to be a part of the team. You’ve heard the horror stories of having a bad hire. You know a bad hire can cost your startup both time and money. You need to hire the right person. Someone who has spent 60+ hours a week for two months improving their skills and mindset. Someone who’s learned from some of the best minds in the startup community. Someone who has grown out of their fears of uncertainty and committed themselves to their craft. That’s the kind of individual you want in your team. That’s Startup Institute students.

Register now for Startup Institute’s TalentExpo and discover your next hire:


When: Wednesday, August 13th, 10:00 am – 1:30 pm
Where:  Harvard Innovation Lab, 125 Western Avenue, Boston, MA 02134
RSVP for Boston Here


When: Thursday, August 14th, 9:00 am – 12:30 pm
Where: Brad’s Deals, 640 N LaSalle, Suite 460, Chicago, IL 60654
RSVP for Chicago Here


When: Thursday, August 14th, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Where: Goodwin Proctor, 620 8th Avenue (Between 40th & 41st), New York, NY 10018
RSVP for New York Here

This post was written by Startup Institute Chicago alum, Luis Rodriguez. He loves music, soccer, and you guessed it… startups!

7 Ways to Know You’ll Thrive at a Startup

Being a good startup employee requires a wide variety of skills and qualities. How do you know if you’re the right fit? Even before you dive into startup culture, you may find that your behavior in everyday life is pointing towards a startup role. If you’ve found yourself in these 7 situations, what are you waiting for? You’ll thrive at a startup!

1. You can put yourself in someone else’s shoes


During the last Super Bowl, your girlfriend asked you to explain football to her. Oh man, that’s a tough one. But you didn’t throw some advanced lingo at her or get frustrated and tell her not to worry about it. You broke it down, explained it from a beginner’s point of view, and satisfied her curiosity without missing the first touchdown. Now that’s a skill. Plus, you just scored someone else to go to the game with.

2. You solve problems instead of complaining about them


After your last breakup, did you spend the night crying on the couch over a tub of ice cream? No way. You hit up the hottest clubs with your friends. When something goes wrong, you can’t just sit there and let it hurt you. Things happen and you know how to learn from it and take the necessary steps to move on.

3. You’re optimistic


This year’s resolution: work out three times a week, no exceptions. A couple months went well, but in April, you slipped and skipped a whole week. Most people would say the resolution was broken and it’s time to give up, but not you. You kept going, and as of August, that’s the only week you missed. Go get em tiger!

4. You’re willing to take risks


It’s Thursday night – dinner night with your friends. They suggest sushi, but you’ve never had sushi, and you’re not sure if you’d like it. On one hand, you can make an excuse to not go, just wait until next week and hope they go for tacos or Italian. But what if you really like it? You’ll never know unless you try it. Sometimes you need to take a risk. So you take it…and it turns out you like sushi so much you suggest going again the next week.

5. You’re able to use feedback as a tool for improvement


When you moved into your new apartment and your mother came for her first visit, you knew it was coming. “The couch is the wrong color. The coffee table is in the wrong spot. Where are all the decorative pillows?” But you have to admit, she was right – your dark walls did make the living room pretty depressing. And instead of needlessly fighting for your lack of decorative skills, you took her advice. Now you have the nicest living room on the block. You’re also not afraid to give feedback, because mom should know that no one uses the term “as if” in conversation anymore.

6. You take responsibility for your actions instead of blaming others


Remember when you were a kid, and you were playing football in the house when your mother specifically told you not to? And then you inevitably broke her favorite vase? You had two options: either take the blame and apologize or blame it on your brother. Being the responsible person you are, you took the former option. Your mother might have been mad, but you became a better person in the process and your brother looked up to you for doing it.

7. You try new things that aren’t in your typical skill set


You’re not much of a “computer person,” but when your laptop broke you didn’t want to spend the $200 to get it fixed. Why not try it yourself first? After a little bit of research, you found a solution that could save you the hefty bill. Within an hour of opening up the command line, you came out with a perfectly working computer and $200 securely in your bank account. Plus, you can now exchange your computer skills for pizza when your friends have the same computer troubles.

Do you fit the description? If yes, click here. We may just be your ticket into a career you love. If no, don’t worry… startups aren’t for everyone!

Why I Wish I’d Attended Startup Institute Instead of Grad School


I have a Master’s in Higher Education Management, and I also work at a startup. It may seem a bit incongruous – or at the very least, an unnecessary pre-requisite to work for a startup in the tech world. Although I got value out of my grad school experience, here are a few reasons why I wish I’d pursued a more market-aligned education instead of a traditional one.

  • Grad school is singularly focused: Grad school provides a path to create future professors and researchers. Most grad students,  myself included, apply and attend grad school uncertain that they wanted to commit to a life in academia For uncertain folks like myself grad school turns out to be the longest litmus test for interest in a field.  There are definitely ways faster than 2 years to figure out whether or not you like a field.

    Compare that with the world of startups where you’re constantly trying new hats, and learning about your preferences and skills. Theres no time for 50 page papers, and the closest thing to a thesis defense will be defending your value prop to investors.

  • The opportunity cost is huge: Don’t get me wrong, graduate school has its merits.  During those two years I read an incredible amount, developed my critical thinking skills and spent a ton of time picking apart various theories.  But what about the opportunity cost of those 2 years of reading and theorizing?  


  • In grad school you learn how to learn; at SI you learn to do: Thats the biggest difference between my time at Startup Institute and at grad school, actually doing things.  In two months at Startup Institute, I built a personal portfolio, learned the tools I needed to become a marketer, built out a network of people in my desired profession, the whole time surrounded by smart, passionate people.  I can easily say that I’ve learned, experienced and accomplished more at SI over the last 12 months as both a student and staff member than in double the time at Grad School.

If you know you’re in love with particle physics or molecular biology – great. Go to grad school. Likewise, if you answer true to all of the questions in the graphic above.

But if like most you’re unsure of what you really want to do, there are better places to figure that out – all the while building a network and real skills that are invaluable regardless of your choice of profession.

Learn more about Startup Institute HERE.

This blog post was written by Brent Williams, Program Manager in Chicago and former Startup Institute student.

Addressing the London Talent Gap in Tech

Over the last four years, job-growth in the UK tech sector has outpaced job-growth in the rest of the private sector by a factor of four. UX/UI designers, digital marketing specialists and developers are now part of a long list of jobs which are in high demand. Jobs which barely existed 5 years ago are now critical to a company’s success. Tech City estimates that in the United Kingdom alone one million technology jobs need to be filled by 2020.

So, the future is bright, right? Well, yes. But let’s look at the situation more closely.

With so many jobs needing to be filled, the UK tech sector represents a world of opportunity. The UK has seen an incredible boom in startup activity over the last five years and people are finding the startup life appealing. Flexibility, creative input, and the ability to make a real impact are all traits which people are increasingly valuing in the work place. But what do you do if your existing skill-set doesn’t match the needs of a startup?

There are two main factors to take into account and these are technical skills and a deep understanding of the operational culture of a startup. Make no mistake, both are as important as the other. Startups may be renowned for their informal company cultures – quirky startup office traits are infamous – but the buck does not stop here. Understanding the needs of a startup is very different to understanding the needs of a larger, more established organisation!

The Tech talent gap is here and it is real. The UK government recognises it as a priority and any growing company knows the problems that the talent gap poses. In fact, 45% of London startups listed hiring as their biggest problem. The first few years of a startup’s life are crucial and they simply can’t take the risk of bringing people on board who are lacking certain technical skills, can’t move quickly and pivot at a moment’s notice or take real initiative. This has led to a mis-match between current job vacancies and the talent looking to fill them.

It was from listening to founders talk about the difficulties the talent gap causes that Startup Institute was created in Boston, and is now launching in London. We train people how to make an impact on the very first day of working at a startup by putting the technical skills that we teach into context. This means learning what it really takes to work in the startup world and working in cross-functional teams to solve real problems affecting real startups.

The result? Great people find jobs they love with cutting-edge companies from the local ecosystem.

In the words of Joana Shields, former CEO of Tech City:
“Startup Institute’s arrival in London is well timed. Tech and digital businesses are the new growth engine of the London economy generating 27 percent of the capital’s job growth. A healthy pipeline of talented, skilled individuals is essential to sustaining this.”

The talent gap isn’t just a problem for businesses – talented people are missing out on fantastic opportunities! Startups are in a position to be more flexible employers and their smaller teams and flatter structures means that every team member can make an impact and experience the joy of seeing a product take shape.

So how do you make the move into the startup world? The best way to learn is by doing. So get out there and show Tech City what you’ve got! Applications are now open in London.

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